9 Alternatives to Railway Sleepers

"This image" by Paul Sayer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yewhort is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Gone are the days when gardening was all about greenery and blooms. Nowadays, people like to put in efforts to create great outdoor spaces with different materials that give an entirely different look. Generally speaking, railway sleepers have been associated with modern garden designs and can add a great rustic feel to gardens that are designed around country styles.

However, if these sleepers don’t fit into your budget and design requirements, then you do not need to compromise as there are plenty of alternative options available.

In this article, we will be discussing 9 wonderful alternatives to railway sleepers for creating a beautiful garden perfect for relaxing outdoors.


What Are Railway Sleepers In Gardening?

Railway sleepers, also known as railroad ties, are dense blocks of wood most commonly made from treated pine wood. Their flat and rectangular shape makes them perfect for a variety of gardening projects.

They have been around since the 19th century and were used in the early days of railroads for constructing railroad tracks.

Today, railway sleepers serve many purposes when it comes to building up interesting garden features such as raised beds, terraced flower beds, steps, or retaining walls.

They can be used in so many different ways that no two gardens will end up looking the same. Some great ideas include framing pathways or creating an edging between lawns and flowerbeds. When placed horizontally they can be used as benches to create seating areas in your garden too!

Read More: Using Railway Sleepers in Your Garden


9 Alternatives To Railway Sleepers For Your Garden

Have you been looking for some unique garden decorating ideas that can add a rustic charm to your outdoors? Railway sleepers are quickly becoming popular because of their aesthetic value, yet, they may not fit every style or budget.

However, if you are looking for alternatives, here are the top nine alternatives to railway sleepers:

1. Decking

Decking is a ready-made structure /made from materials such as wood or composite plastic which is specifically designed for outdoor use. It usually consists of individual boards which are screwed onto joists – like wooden laths – that have been professionally fitted and secured into place into the ground below.

Decking comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors and it can also be more easily customized than hardscaping like stone patios.

Decking is strong, durable, low maintenance, and can be painted or treated to give it an authentic timber feel. It’s also very versatile and comes in various sizes and styles that can be used to create a variety of different designs within your garden space.

An outdoor deck provides numerous options when it comes to landscaping. You can create complex patterns or keep things simple with straight lines; the choice is entirely yours!

Many people choose to enclose their decks with balustrades or railings for additional safety, especially if young children are present; you can also add planters filled with flowers to introduce beautiful color and an extra layer of natural interest.

Furthermore, if you have an above-ground pool then a deck will provide an ideal spot for sitting comfortably next to the pool instead of lying on damp grass.

Wood decking tends to fade over time and slip resistance can become an issue in wetter climates. It also needs regular cleaning and treatment to keep it in peak condition.

2. Composite Wood

Composite wood, also known as manufactured wood or engineered wood, is a blend of natural wood particles, plastic polymers, and adhesives that bind them together.

The result is a product that has the same appearance as natural wood but often with improved properties compared to traditional timber. Composite wood is available in two forms – solid core or hollow core – both of which can be cut and drilled just like normal timber.

If you don’t want the hassle of maintaining wood decking in your garden, composite wood might be the answer.

This material is composed of plastic resins to create a sturdy combination that does not need regular repainting or treating like wooden decking does – so upkeep costs are significantly lower as well as hassle-free!

Composite wood is quickly becoming one of the most popular materials for garden landscaping projects due to its exceptional versatility and range of uses. It can be used for anything from decks and pergolas to raised vegetable beds; it’s also perfect for constructing planters or frames for seating areas.

However, composite wood is more expensive than traditional timber, making it less accessible for most people’s budgets.

Read More: Plastic & Wood Material Alternatives for Landscaping/Parks


3. Concrete Slabs

Concrete slabs in gardens are becoming a more popular choice for garden landscaping among homeowners who want to add some pizzazz to their outdoor spaces. 

The main benefit of using concrete slabs is that they are very durable, meaning they can stand up to any weather conditions and last much longer than other materials. In addition, they are easy to clean and maintain; all you need is a broom or pressure washer occasionally.

Another pro of using concrete slabs in your landscaping design is that they come in almost any color or pattern imaginable. This means that you can customize the look of your outdoor space to fit with the rest of your design theme without spending too much money on expensive materials like wood or stone.

One drawback of using concrete slabs for garden landscaping is their unforgiving nature; if something gets spilled or damaged on them, it’s not always easy to simply wipe away the mess. You may have to replace entire sections in some circumstances depending on how bad the damage is, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Another con that comes with using concrete slabs for garden landscaping is their lackluster look after years of exposure to the elements.

Since they cannot be changed or easily renovated, once they start looking old it’s hard to make them look shiny and new again without having them replaced entirely – which can be expensive and disruptive.

Finally, another potential issue with using concrete slabs for garden landscaping is their tendency to retain noise and heat from sources such as cars driving perilously close by or the sunlight beating down during hot summer days making sitting outside unbearable during peak hours.

This might not be desirable if you want an oasis where you can relax away from stressors!

4. Recycled Plastic Blanks

Recycled plastic blanks are pieces of plastic that have been recycled from other sources and formed into various shapes and sizes which can then be used for various applications – including garden landscaping!

Often made from polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), they feature a high level of durability, impact resistance, and water resistance, also offering excellent insulation properties.

Using recycled plastics in garden landscaping has numerous benefits over standard materials. Firstly, they’re much more environmentally friendly as they use existing resources rather than new ones.

Secondly, recycled plastic blanks typically last longer compared to wooden or metal options thanks to their weather-resistant nature, saving you money and effort on maintenance. Finally, lighter-weight plastic offers greater versatility when creating intricate designs in your outdoor space.

Recycled plastic blanks can be used for a variety of landscaping projects, including edging borders along pathways or fencing off areas of your backyard. Depending on the type chosen, it could also be used to create kerbstones giving your garden beds an interesting contoured effect.

Alternatively, it could even be used for building blocks – like brick walls – using interlocking components similar to Lego blocks! Be sure to pick the right type according to your needs – some types may not offer enough strength or stability if you’d like to use them vertically as planters boxes or raised flower beds.

5. Bricks

Brick is a classic material when it comes to garden landscaping. It can bring color, texture, and dimension and increase visual appeal in your flower bed or border walkway.

Plus, you can easily get them at most home improvement stores and even local masonry shops. Another great advantage of brick is that it requires minimal maintenance; however, be sure to clean it regularly to keep it looking its best.

One downside of using bricks in gardening is that they can be costly depending on what type of brick you use as well as how much of it you need for your project. Additionally, some types of brick require a sealant that must be applied every year or two to protect against weathering.

However, this cost can be minimal if the right product is used that provides long-lasting protection against moisture penetration and UV damage.

Installation is another potential issue with bricks.

Depending upon size and weight, bricks may require extra heavy-duty tools such as jackhammers or wet saws which could add more expense on top of regular installation costs like mortar or polymeric sand/joints filler (depending on whether they will be laid dry or wet).

6. Paving Stones

Paving stones are a great choice for garden landscaping and are often used in both residential and commercial areas due to their aesthetic appeal. They come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, textures, and materials.

Paving stones provide strength and stability to an area as well as make it look more appealing. 

They are relatively easy to clean and maintain due to their dense material makeup. Moss growth can be simply wiped away with warm water and detergent or vinegar. Pressure washers may be necessary for tougher stains requiring more intense cleaning. Additionally, because certain types of paving stone absorb little water, it is resistant to mold growth which further reduces the need for regular cleaning or maintenance.

Another advantage of using paving stone is that it can take a beating! The density of the material makes these stones very resilient and they will last many years with proper installation by an experienced professional.

Therefore, longer-lasting value over traditional decks or patios made from wood or composite decking materials is an extra bonus when including these elements in your garden landscaping design.

While it’s true that paving stones have the potential to last longer than other materials such as wood or composite decking – sadly this generally comes with a hefty price tag too!

Installing paving stones requires precision workmanship from experienced professionals who know exactly what they’re doing.

This added expertise can drive up costs significantly compared with DIY options like laying down turf or sod grass instead.

7. Logs

Logs for garden landscaping can be a great way to add texture, shape, and character to your garden. This natural material can be used in a variety of different ways, from forming boundaries or creating pathways to making seating areas or otherwise providing an extra layer of decoration. 

Logs are readily available in various shapes and sizes which means they are also very affordable when compared with other materials used for landscaping projects. Moreover, logs are durable and will last many years without needing any structural repairs or replacement.

They also create a natural look that is aesthetically pleasing as well as eco-friendly since logs are biodegradable once their lifespan is over. Depending on the species chosen these materials can also provide much-needed wildlife habitat.

However, since wood is organic matter it will eventually decay over time especially when exposed to outdoor elements like rainwater or high temperatures during summer months which can encourage rot issues faster unless treated properly before installation by using sealants designed specifically for this purpose.

Moreover, when working with any kind of organic matter regular maintenance is crucial in order to keep it looking its best throughout the year.

This often entails cutting away dead branches and leaves which may occasionally become snagged on parts of intricate designs created by logs as part of your landscape design plan.

8. Corrugated Metal Sheets

Are you looking for an affordable, yet stylish way to spruce up your garden? 

Corrugated metal sheets are extremely low-maintenance, making them ideal for busy homeowners who don’t have time and energy to constantly maintain their gardens. They’re also highly durable, lasting longer than many other materials used in landscaping projects.

Compared to bricks or natural stone, corrugated metal sheets can offer significant savings when it comes to cost too. Additionally, most corrugated metal sheets require minimal labor effort during installation when compared with other materials.

One drawback of using corrugated metal sheets is that they tend not to provide good insulation because they lack internal cavities which trap air between them.

This means that your outdoor space may not retain heat very well during colder weather conditions.

As much as corrugated metal is great for filtering rainwater runoff away from your home, it does tend to amplify sound more than other materials commonly used in landscaping projects due to its sharp edges which bounce off sound waves more readily than smoother surfaces like wood or stone.

This means that noise pollution could be an issue if your home is close to a busy street or highway.

9. Galvanized Metal Sheets

Galvanized metal sheets are a popular choice for garden landscaping due to their attractive appearance and durability.

One advantage of using galvanized metal sheeting in your garden is the corrosion resistance they offer. Galvanizing provides a protective coating that helps prevent rust and oxidation damage, ensuring that your garden fixtures will last longer than those made with other materials such as wood or plastic.

Another benefit of using these sheets is the fact that they are relatively easy to install. Unlike some other materials, galvanized metal can be cut into different shapes so you can create intricate designs without having to resort to complicated construction techniques.

The biggest disadvantage of galvanizing metal is its tendency to heat up quickly in high temperatures, making it uncomfortable for those who have to work with them in hot climates. Additionally, when galvanized metal sheets are left outside in the open air, they can develop rust spots if not properly treated.

While galvanized metal sheets do have several benefits for outdoor use, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons when deciding if they’re the best material for your garden landscaping project. 


Why Should You Consider Not Using Railway Sleepers In Your Garden?

Railway sleepers are popular materials commonly used in gardening as they are relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. However, railway sleepers also have several disadvantages which should be taken into account before deciding on using them. Here’s a breakdown of the various risks associated with railway sleepers:

Risk of Contamination

Railway sleepers are usually treated or stained with creosote to help protect them from the weather and aquatic damage. However, this can lead to contamination if inhaled or transferred onto garden furniture or clothing.

In addition to this, if railway sleepers are made from recycled materials there could be a chance of debris or unwanted materials that were inside the wood being released into the soil, contaminating your garden plants.

Pest Infestations

As railway sleepers are often used in areas exposed to wet conditions such as ponds and streams, they can easily become vulnerable to pest infestations like termites and borers.

If these pests find their way inside wood then they can start destroying it and potentially harm any other nearby plants that they come into contact with.

Weight & Size Restrictions

Railway sleepers may not be suitable for smaller-sized gardens as they are quite bulky in size and need a lot of space. Also, it is important to take note of how much weight each sleeper can carry as uneven weight distribution on railway sleepers could cause them to tilt over when too much pressure is placed upon them.

Due to these factors, it is important that you select railway sleepers accordingly based on where you plan on putting them in your garden and how much weight you want them to carry safely – otherwise, it could end up being an unnecessary expense for something unsuitable for the job!

Lack of Durability

Although treated railway sleepers tend to last longer than natural alternatives, their life expectancy still isn’t particularly long due to exposure to weathering, water damage, UV rays, etc.

If a place doesn’t have adequate safety measures in place then there’s a potential risk of people damaging the construction by accident.

This once again emphasizes why Railway Sleepers shouldn’t be used without proper knowledge or experience beforehand.

Risk Of Weathering and Damage

If left untreated these units will weather very quickly exposing edges of timber (especially cut ends) which could dry out causing splits and even greater exposure to the chemical preservatives within.

This may impact neighboring areas that have not been covered by bark or soil meaning protection from harmful substances will be compromised in those areas needed most such as flower beds and vegetable patches etc).


Things To Consider When Using Alternatives To Railway Sleepers For Garden

When it comes to making your garden look attractive and natural-looking, railway sleepers can add great character and a rustic charm. However, they are not suitable for everyone’s budget or available in all sizes.

Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives that can be used in the garden instead of traditional railway sleepers. Here are some things to bear in mind when choosing an alternative.

Consider the Type of Material – Wood vs Stone

Wood has been used for centuries as a reliable material for sleepers but stone is also popularly used today as an alternative material.

If you are looking for a long-lasting way to make your garden looks its best with minimal maintenance, then stone is the ideal choice. It’s low maintenance and will last much longer than wood if properly installed and looked after.

Think About Cost

Another important factor when deciding on alternatives to railway sleepers is the cost of installation and maintenance. Wood will cost more than stone because it requires more workmanship and has higher up-front costs, such as purchasing the wood sleepers themselves.

However, stone offers more flexibility when it comes to price points depending on type and size; this means you can make your garden area look attractive at an affordable cost

Ponder Why You Want To Use An Alternative

Sleeper products can be versatile and have multiple applications so before making a purchase figure out what kind of job you need them for. Are you using them purely as retaining wall features? Perhaps decorative features?

Sleeper alternatives come in different shapes and sizes – some materials were specifically designed for certain uses – weighing up all these details will help guide your decision process towards which type of product you go with most effectively!

Take Location Into Account

Where you plan on installing the alternates should be taken into account too; wooden alternatives might be better suited to drier climates whereas stone variants might be better suited to wetter locations due to their relative strength.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here